Sri Lankan shares hit 2-wk closing high as blue chips rally

COLOMBO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares hit a two-week closing high on Tuesday as investors picked up blue chip shares such as John Keells Holdings Plc and Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc, brokers said.

The Colombo stock index ended 0.17 percent firmer at 6,148.94, its highest close since Jan. 23.

“Bargain hunting in blue chips is continuing. There was some block trades too,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research at First Capital Equities (Pvt) Ltd.

Shares of John Keells Holdings Plc rose 1.01 percent, while Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc rose 0.59 percent.

Turnover stood at 548.9 million rupees ($3.65 million), more than this year’s daily average of 623.3 million rupees.

Foreign investors net bought 58.2 million rupees worth of equities on Tuesday. They have net sold 313.1 million rupees worth of shares so far this year.

On Thursday, Fitch Ratings affirmed Sri Lanka’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at ‘B+’ and revised the outlook to ‘stable’ from ‘negative’.

Sri Lankan stocks have been hit by political uncertainty after ruling coalition parties decided to contest local polls separately, and on worries over a rise in interest rates.

Last week, the country’s central bank kept key rates steady for a sixth straight month, but flagged possible “corrective measures” in the months ahead in a sign further tightening might be on the cards to temper inflation pressures and safeguard a fragile rupee.

Yields on treasury bills are hovering at a more than four-year high.

Sri Lanka’s stock and foreign exchange markets were closed on Friday for a Buddhist religious holiday. ($1 = 150.3000 Sri Lankan rupees)

Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Vyas Mohan